By Zhengxu Wang.

“The Party will not remove ‘Mao Zedong Thought’ from its Constitution. But a change to its ideological formulation shows the Party’s continuous evolution toward a normal, secular, governing party.”

Prior to the opening of the Party Congress, a most notable suggestion of possible change that would emerge at the Congress was the removal of the reference to Mao Zedong Thought in the Party Constitution.

By doing that, the rumour went, the Party would be ready to break with its Maoist past.

So it’s unavoidable that these people, including reporters and media editors, will have been disappointed when the Congress’s Political Report was read. There will be no changes to the ideological baselines of the Party, which include Marxist-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, Deng Xiaoping Theory, and the “Important Thought of Three Represents”, together with Hu Jintao’s brainchild, the Scientific Outlook of Development.

The list suffers the vulnerability that it could be growing too long—if each leader is to add his own iconic ideological expression into this list, it will soon become unmanageably too long. At the moment it is already too long.

So it looks like there will be some changes to it this time. Hu Jintao may like to just group a few items together, and give them a collective title, if just to reduce the number of items in this list.

In his Political Report, Hu uttered the term, The System of Theories of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics (zhongguo tese sheuizhuyi liluntixi), and explained that this system consists of Deng Xiaoping Theory, Important Thought of Three Represents and Scientific Outlook of Development.

So, the ideological guidance of the Party now contains three parts: Marxist-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thouht, and The System of Theories of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

There is no way the Party is to remove the reference to Marxist-Leninism and Mao Zedong Thought from its Constitution. It would be similar to the Church of England abandoning the Bible.

By contrast, the new theoretical and ideological tifa from the 1980s, could be re-named a “system of theories” in the present new tifa. Maybe, from now on, no individual leader will be able to put his personal brainchild into the Party Constitution.  Any new contribution will be part of this “system”.

So what purpose does this change serve, besides making the Constitution a few words shorter? By deemphasizing the role of individual leaders (Jiang Zemin, Hu Jintao, and those are yet to come) also as bearer of an important stage of the Party’s ideological evolution, it shows that Party is moving further away from its Leninist nature of being a revolutionary Party, which emphasizes ideology.

It shows, instead, the Party is becoming increasingly a managerial and governance institution. In fact, what is “scientific outlook of development” if it is not a set of principles for managing the economic and social issues in a rapidly modernizing country?

That is, in the long run, a good piece of news: the secularization of the Party means politics in China is becoming more and more secular, and with that, it is moving one step closer to the right political system for a secular country—democracy.

Zhengxu Wang is Deputy Director of China Policy Institute.

Opinions expressed in the CPI blog do not represent the views of the China Policy Institute or the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at the University of Nottingham. They are the personal views of the bloggers/authors.


  1. Interesting observations, Zhengxu. A more devious mind might see this as Hu’s revenge on Jiang for not naming him the “core” of his generation of leaders. Hu has now submerged Jiang’s “important” theoretical “contribution” in a lump with his own.

    More importantly, I must say that after reading Hu’s speech (at least the portion of it that was delivered; I don’t think any outsider has yet seen the entire written version), this is the most disappointing and vacuous political document I’ve seen in a long time. And that’s saying a lot after a year of US politicking for president! It gives no hint of any sort of plans for political reform, is replete with bromides about what the leadership “should” and “will” do over the next five years (reminiscent for those of us long-suffering American TV viewers of Mr. Romney’s five-point “plan” that wasn’t a plan at all), and paeans to all the oldies including everything from the “two basic points” to the “urgent” need to change the mode of growth and redress income inequities that we’ve been hearing about since Hu/Wen took office.

    If anyone was looking to this speech for signs of a break with the past, they’ll have to look a lot closer than I was able…and probably wear their rose-colored glasses to find it. Best, Chris

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